Hidden in Plain Sight!

In speaking this week with Jon Waldron, longtime running coach at Concord Academy and accomplished masters runner, we kicked around ideas for a tagline for Run Strategies –  something that might draw attention and readership to both the site and the blog.  I’m also toying with the idea of starting a podcast of interviews with top regional masters runners and was looking for a name for that podcast.  He suggested: “Hidden In Plain Sight.”  Jon noted the many examples of incredible masters runners who are buried behind the pack of open division frontrunners.  I looked at two of the 2019 USATF-New England Grand Prix races, the 5K in Westfield and the 10 Miler in New Hampshire. As expected, Jon’s instincts were confirmed.  In the 5K, 49 out of the 1,506 runners (a mere 3.3%) accomplished at least an 85% age grading and of those, 26 were over 40 with 17 of those over 50. In the 10 Miler, only 14 of 1,128 runners (1.2%) achieved 85% AG status, with 8 of those 14 over 50.  Another 57 runners earned at least an 80% AG with 34 (48%) of the 71 80%+ age graders being masters runners. Thus, 4.7% of the … Continue reading

Running Economy

The concept of running economy (RE) – the amount of oxygen our body uses at a given speed and distance – is akin to fuel efficiency in a car.  If we have a heavy car, with a big engine, going up a hill or pressing the pedal hard as the light turns green, our fuel economy suffers.  So it goes with running.  Ideally we’ve got a trim chassis, run with an even pace, lean easily into the hills and then motor down them. Most books on running devote space to this topic.  Pete Magill, Jordan Metzl, Owen Anderson, and Tim Noakes come at it from a slightly difference angle.  However, for the endurance runner it boils down to what percentage of the oxygen we have at our disposal is being used to move us forward at a submaximal pace.  Other than a finishing kick this is the pace we run.  While VO2max gets a lot of attention, RE is crucial.  Many highly successful runners have respectable but not top-end levels of VO2max.  Frank Shorter, for example, had a 72% VO2max but regularly beat competitors with 80%+ levels.  RE is closely related to the concept of fatigue resistance, which Anderson defines … Continue reading

32 Years

This morning I went for an early 10-mile run along the Burlington Waterfront, ending up at the finish of the Vermont City Marathon.  With Covid-19, the event has been postponed (hopefully not cancelled!) until October and it was very quiet on the bikepath.  This is the way it was in Burlington on Memorial Day weekend before 1989.   On May 27, 1989, I recall driving into Burlington at 5 a.m. from Shelburne where I lived.  The sun was rising and anticipation in the air.  We had been planning the event for 18 months and it was here!  There were now several hundred volunteers setting up the course, filling up cups at the aid stations, donning traffic vests to supplement the police, setting up the start and finish areas and running around taking care of various tasks.  From the air, it might have resembled a sweater being knit.  The pieces were coming together!   As the 1,025 runners congregated at South Winooski and College for the 8:05 start (an agreement with the churches to minimize conflicts with their 8:00 a.m. services), the P.A. system embedded in the local radio station’s van quit, so Governor Kunin used a bullhorn to greet the … Continue reading

The Eyes Have It!

Taking a break from Covid-related news, I came across a 2018 article in the ACSM Health and Fitness Journal extolling our marvelous (and maybe underappreciated) eyes.  Certainly those with impaired vision do not take their eyes for granted.  My father in his 80’s suffered a mini-stroke and woke up effectively blind.  He lived another 10 years but his enthusiasm for life waned as he was a voracious reader.  Many others have had sight complications earlier in life or even at birth.  But for most of us, we rely on our eyes without thinking a whole lot about them. So, James Peterson’s article “Ten Nice-to-Know Facts About the Eyes” caught my eye, literally, and I thought my blog readers might find this interesting.  So a bit rephrased, here are his 10: Our eyes are nearly full size at birth.  The rest of the body grows around them!  For those with normal vision about 80% of what we learn and remember is due to sight.   After the brain, eyes are the most complex and powerful organ in our bodies.  With them we distinguish shapes, colors, depth, and adapt to changes in light.  The tiny muscles controlling the eyes don’t get time … Continue reading

Silver Linings

Each week, the faculty and students in my program at UVM hold a seminar, often to review a current paper in the medical literature.  The program is in the College of Medicine, so topics often center around clinical trials.  Not exactly running related, but it’s a great group of smart people and I’ve learned a lot about the research process, which can apply to running as well. Last week, we discussed an article in the New York Times examining whether the number of deaths from Covid-19 are being accurately reported.  Probably not, and several reasons were given.  First, there is often a delay in reporting, sometimes up to several weeks.  But that sorts itself out eventually.  A second bigger issue is how the death certificate is read. There are usually four lines on a death cert, with the top line considered the primary cause.  Presumably this is the line used for reporting the Covid deaths we see in the news.  However, with older people having several health issues, Covid-19 may have merely been the final straw.  The attending physician has to make a determination about the primary cause, and likely there are inconsistencies around the country.  Also, there may not … Continue reading

Options

So what will things look like on the racing front later this summer, fall, and even next year?  It’s anybody’s guess and there is indeed a lot of guessing going on.  Right now, the Boston Marathon is scheduled for September 14.  That seemed safe when it was re-scheduled in March, but now it’s not so certain.  Locally, the Vermont City Marathon is moved from Memorial Day weekend to October 25th.  Again, that seems safe, but who knows.  Vermont is in good shape Covid-19 wise and Governor Scott is slowly allowing a reopening.  But he cautions we are a short drive away from metro areas that have more of a problem and less control over the spread of the virus.  If events are held that attract out-of-staters, just how will that be handled? Our local club, Green Mountain Athletic Association, has canceled its first two races, with a third to be virtual.  Coming up are our two July races that attract over 200 runners each.  On our Board call earlier this week, we agreed to see what guidelines the Vermont Department of Health issues on gatherings in the coming weeks.  This is quite pertinent to all of Vermont; summertime is when … Continue reading

Proof in the Plodding

Since starting my blog in 2015, I’ve harped on the importance of regular weightlifting and alternative aerobic exercise, which for me has been deep water running and StairMaster.  I call these running equivalents, or REQs.  Along with generally running four and sometimes five days a week, the weights and REQs have seemed a good balance to keep in reasonable racing shape and though slowing with age, feeling spry enough. Then along came COVID-19, shutting down every gym and pool for the foreseeable future.  As luck would have it, the day things closed down I tweaked a hamstring.  Not badly, but enough to affect my stride and really slow me down.  It’s been three weeks and I still feel stiff as a board the first couple of miles running, never really loosing up.  The fix for something like this the past years has been hitting the pool, StairMaster and a variety of leg weights and stretches to allow the hamstring, calf, quad, or whatever is troubled to settle.  So why are weights and REQs so effective?  One, they allow for a full range of motion, lubricate the joints, and get the blood flowing to the injured parts.  Two, they stretch the … Continue reading

In the Meantime…..

We’re in the thick of COVID-19 and it’s serious stuff.  Increasingly, people we know are afflicted. Most of us are out of work or working from home, taking classes online, become teachers or day care providers for our children, and in any case not able to congregate with friends or shop.  Movie theatres have shut down and restaurants restricted to takeout.  On the running front, the UVM indoor track is locked up.  Gyms and athletic clubs are closed and I suspect even those who previously begrudgingly dragged themselves there would gladly go today! Those who swim, spin (we are still having winter here in VT though outdoor cycling is now becoming an option) or play court sports aren’t so fortunate.  Ski areas are closed due to COVID-19 and cross-country trails may be nice for a day before icing over or turning to slush. All things considered, we runners have it pretty good.  Yes, races planned on have been canceled.  Larger group runs have disbanded as have indoor track workouts.  Yet on snowy days, the streets and bikepaths are plowed and if there’s ice, we can pull out the Icebugs.  Running provides us a vital outlet during these crazy and tragic … Continue reading

Some Reflections on Running

Like everyone else, now that we’re sequestered in various ways to ward off the spread of coronavirus, I’ve had time to do some extra reading.  This led me to pull Tim Noakes’s Lore of Running off the shelf, a past birthday present.  Many of you know this 930-page tome, first released in 1985 and last updated in 2002 (4th Edition).  It’s an amazing compilation, in many ways ahead of its time or at least on the cusp of it.  Much has been gleaned in the last 18 years, but little contradicts what Noakes presented in LOR.  It’s unfortunate Noakes has become known for his more recent outspoken advocacy of the low carb-high fat diet.  If you Google him, almost all the YouTube links relate to this.  Yet, Noakes’ understanding of running science is broad and deep.  And this is why LOR is such a valuable resource and good read. In the Introduction, Noakes talks about his own love and connection to running and entitles that section Some Reflections on Running.  Hence the title of this post.  He notes seven things that capture what running has meant to him.  This resonated with me and led to listing his points and adding … Continue reading

Keeping Perspective

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown virtually everything into chaos.  Schools are closing or going online, conferences and meetings cancelled, international travel bans put in place, and local, state, and national health officials grappling with assessing the spread of the virus and strategies for dealing with it.  The financial and commodity markets are taking historic hits and swings.  And at a time we could use a little relief and some distracting entertainment, the Final Four tournaments are cancelled, the start of the MLB delayed and NBA season suspended.  Regionally, the New Bedford Half Marathon was cancelled and the Boston Marathon moved to the fall for the first time ever.  Locally, road races of all sizes are being cancelled. As we might expect, there is plenty of finger pointing and second guessing going on.  Unfortunately, that will probably continue for some time, which just doesn’t help things.  It’s a time to realize nobody has all the answers and to work together on viable solutions.  Hopefully we’ll see more of that in the days ahead.  The reality is very few of us are going to contract COVID-19, which is a new (why it’s being called novel) strain of coronavirus causing the problem.  Other … Continue reading